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uk's new timber roadmap.

The Government has recently announced exciting and innovative new plans to increase the domestic capacity of home grown, sustainable timber for use in construction in a bid to reinvigorate the UK's forestry and wood processing sectors, to increase the number of jobs that are available for skilled carpenters and to reduce emissions emanating from the built environment.

At present, up to 80% of the timber used in UK housebuilding is imported, which creates a significant increase in the carbon footprint of the timber, although it is sustainably sourced. Increasing the capacity of home-grown timber will be better for the environment and a major contributor towards achieving the goal of Net Zero by 2050.

Why the focus on timber?

The Government has established that large timber buildings can store up to 400% more carbon than their concrete counterparts, and as circa 25% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions emanate from the built environment, finding more environmentally conscious ways of housing the UK's population will be a pivotal step towards meeting climate change goals.

The Timber in Construction Roadmap [1] pledges to increase the use of locally sourced timber in construction, achieving environmental goals as well as contributing to economic growth, providing new jobs in rural areas, and ultimately contributing up to £2Bn to the UK's economy.

Key action areas

This ambitious road map specifies a number of key action areas in which focus will be targeted in the new year. The first is to improve the data that is available relating to the use of timber in construction and its impact on whole life carbon.

Once the data is sufficient to accurately promote timber as a sustainable and suitable building material for widespread use by the UK's construction industry, there will be a concentrated promotional drive to increase its use.

The Government wants to upskill existing construction workers as well as welcome new starters with a passion for timber to the industry. It is hoped that the increased focus on timber as a building material will increase interest amongst graduates and school leavers and ultimately support the construction industry in reducing the number of vacancies that it is currently holding. 

Concentrated efforts will be required to increase the availability of sustainable timber products from home-grown sources while addressing any fire safety concerns that construction companies and their clients may have about the widespread use of engineered timber in their projects.

The Government plans to collaborate closely with insurers, mortgage lenders and warranty providers to ensure that homebuyers will not be disadvantaged by buying a timber built home, thus increasing desire amongst the construction industry to meet this need. Altogether, the change in focus to timber construction should promote innovation within the industry and put the UK on the world leaderboard for timber construction systems.

Challenges to overcome

Reducing our reliance on imported timber will not be easy, as it will be necessary to put appropriate funding and skilled talent into forestry roles to ensure that domestic forests can supply the necessary demand without harming local ecosystems, water quality and decimating biodiversity.

The benefits are worth the risk

The risks detailed above have already been considered in great detail, and mitigations will be put in place to ensure that sourcing of UK-grown timber will not harm the environment from which it is extracted, additional tree planting will be prioritised, and forestry commissions will ensure that biodiversity and local ecosystems will be protected before, during and after harvesting is complete.

By growing the UK's supply of low-carbon timber, it will be possible to decarbonise the built environment, achieve housebuilding aims, help rural areas to level up with the provision of green jobs and contribute to the UK's economy. 

Will it work?

Earlier this year, we discussed a number of exciting timber construction projects [2], including the The Black and White Building in Shoreditch, a modern and tasteful timber development which is delivering incredible results for its owners and occupiers alike, in terms of energy efficiency and occupant well being. 

Another impressive timber building which has achieved the elusive Passivhaus status is the Harris Academy in Sutton. This four-storey school is built from cross laminated timber and clad with a mixture of Douglas fir timber, brick and copper. It includes a number of next-gen energy efficiency solutions, including brise-soleil, which optimises solar gains and prevents overheating.

This project was shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2020 in the Education & Public sector and won Civic Building of the Year at SPACES Awards 2021.

We at Build Space are watching this news with great interest and look forward to finding out more about it in the New Year.



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